What's Inside the Spring 2012 JPAM
February 1, 2012 02:08 PM
A quick summary of articles found in the Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Presidential Address: Education and Poverty: Confronting the Evidence
Helen F. Ladd
Current U.S. policy initiatives to improve the U.S. education system, including No Child Left Behind, test-based evaluation of teachers, and the promotion of competition are misguided because they either deny or set to the side a basic body of evidence documenting that students from disadvantaged households on average perform less well in school than those from more advantaged families.
The Effects of Building Strong Families: A Healthy Marriage and Relationship Skills Education Program for Unmarried Parents
Robert G. Wood, Sheena McConnell, Quinn Moore, Andrew Clarkwest, and JoAnn Hsueh
An examination of the impacts of Building Strong Families, a healthy marriage and relationship skills education program serving unmarried parents who were expecting or had recently had a baby. Based on a random assignment research design, the analysis uses survey data from more than 4,700 couples across eight research sites to estimate program effects. Results varied across sites, with one site having a pattern of positive effects (but no effect on marriage) and another having numerous negative effects. However, when impacts are averaged across all research sites, the findings indicate that the program had no overall effects on couples’ relationship quality or the likelihood that they remained together or got married.
Medicare Part D and Its Effect on the Use of Prescription Drugs and Use of Other Health Care Services of the Elderly
Robert Kaestner and Nasreen Khan
In this article, the authors examine the effect of gaining prescription drug insurance as a result of Medicare Part D, on use of prescription drugs and other medical services for a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries. Given the heightened importance of prescription drugs for those with chronic illness, separate estimates are provided for elderly in poorer health.
Three Strategies to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy
Presented are the results from fiscal impact simulations of three national-level policies designed to prevent unintended pregnancy: A media campaign encouraging condom use, a pregnancy prevention program for at-risk youth, and an expansion in Medicaid family planning services. These simulations were performed using FamilyScape, a recently developed agent-based simulation model of family formation. In some simulation specifications, policies’ benefits are monetized by accounting for projected reductions in government expenditures on medical care for pregnant women and infants.
Junk Food in Schools and Childhood Obesity
Ashlesha Datar and Nancy Nicosia
Despite limited empirical evidence, there is growing concern that junk food availability in schools has contributed to the childhood obesity epidemic. In this paper, the authors estimate the effects of junk food availability on body mass index (BMI), obesity, and related outcomes among a national sample of fifth graders. Unlike previous studies, the endogeneity of the school food environment is addressed by controlling for children's BMI at school entry and estimating instrumental variables regressions that leverage variation in the school's grade span.
Is There an Association Between Gasoline Prices and Physical Activity? Evidence from American Time Use Data
Obesity is epidemic in the United States, and there is an imperative need to identify policy tools that may help fight this epidemic. A recent paper in the economics literature finds an inverse relationship between gasoline prices and obesity risk—suggesting that increased gasoline prices via higher gasoline taxes may have the effect of reducing obesity prevalence. This study builds upon that paper. It utilizes cross-sectional time series data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) over 2003–2008, utilizes the increases that occurred in gasoline prices in this period due to Hurricane Katrina and to the global spike in gasoline prices as a “natural experiment,” and explores how time spent by Americans on different forms of physical activity is associated with gasoline price levels. Economic theory suggests that higher gasoline prices may alter individual behavior both via a “substitution effect” whereby people seek alternatives to motorized transportation, and an “income effect” whereby the effect of higher gasoline prices on the disposable family budget leads people to make various adjustments to what they spend money on.
The Impact of Federal Preemption of State Antipredatory Lending Laws on the Foreclosure Crisis
Lei Ding, Roberta G. Quercia, Caroline K. Reid, and Alan M. White
State antipredatory lending laws (APLs) are designed to protect borrowers against predatory lending that can increase the risk of default and deplete the home equity held by borrowers. Federal regulators instituted preemption that limited the scope and reach of state antipredatory lending regulations for certain lenders. Based on the variation in state laws and the variation in the regulatory environment among lenders, this paper identifies the effects of federal preemption of state APLs on the quality of mortgages originated by preempted lenders. The results provide evidence of a relatively higher increase in default risk among loans exempted from strong state antipredatory laws. These results are most robust among refinance mortgages with adjustable interest rates—a large and highly dynamic market in the period of analysis. The findings provide initial evidence that preemption of state mortgage lending regulations may result in an increase in mortgage default risk, thus limiting consumer protection in the residential mortgage market.
The Effect of Requiring Private Employers to Extend Health Benefit Eligibility to Same-Sex Partners of Employees: Evidence from California
Thomas C. Buchmueller and Christopher S. Carpenter
Health disparities related to sexual orientation are well documented and may be due to unequal access to a partner's employer-sponsored insurance (ESI). We provide the literature's first evaluation of legislation enacted by California in 2005 that required private employers within the state to treat employees in committed same-sex relationships in the same way as employees in different-sex marriages with respect to ESI. Our analysis uses data on sexual orientation, partnership, and health insurance from the 2001 to 2007 California Health Interview Surveys (CHIS).
Reducing Environmental Risks by Information Disclosure: Evidence in Residential Lead Paint Disclosure Rule
Recently, there has been a surge in environmental regulations that require information disclosure. However, existing empirical evidence is limited to certain applications and has yet to generalize the effectiveness of this approach as a policy strategy to reduce environmental risks. This study evaluates the disclosure rule of the residential lead paint hazard (Title X) introduced in 1996. This regulation is one of the most prominent environmental disclosure laws, but its effectiveness has been relatively under-investigated. Title X was intended to induce information recipients’ risk prevention behavior by proclaiming lead paint risk in old homes.
Survey-Based Measurement of Public Management and Policy Networks
Adam Douglas Henry, Mark Lubell, and Michael McCoy
Networks have become a central concept in the policy and public management literature; however, theoretical development is hindered by a lack of attention to the empirical properties of network measurement methods. The authors compare three survey-based methods for measuring organizational networks: the roster, the free-recall name generator, and a hybrid name generator that combines these two classic approaches. Results indicate that the roster and free-recall name generator methods both suffer from important limitations.
The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program serves the important purpose of safeguarding Americans against the financial consequences associated with health conditions that make them incapable of work. The criteria for qualifying for DI benefits, the sizeable and rising proportion of working age adults on the rolls, and projected insolvency of the current system prior to 2020 have prompted discussion of whether the system requires reforms to address these issues.
In this Point/Counterpoint, two groups of leading experts address the following questions:
Why has participation in DI risen so much, especially among prime age workers?
Can the DI system be modified to produce better outcomes or does it need more fundamental change? What new initiatives would improve employment of people with disabilities?
Social Security Disability Insurance: Time for Fundamental Change
Richard V. Burkhauser and Mary C. Daly
The Social Security DI program is growing at an unsustainable pace. Over the past 40 years the number of disabled worker beneficiaries has increased nearly sixfold. Although population growth explains some of this increase, DI caseloads as a share of the working-age population have also risen. Rapid growth in the rolls has put increasing pressure on program finances.
Social Security Disability Insurance: Essential Protection When Work Incapacity Strikes
Virginia P. Reno and Lisa D. Ekman
Social Security DI is an essential lifeline for millions of Americans. Without it, many families would be in deep financial distress. Disabled worker beneficiaries account for many of the working-age Americans who are lifted out of poverty by Social Security. For many, Social Security is almost all the income they have.
Response to Virginia Reno
Richard V. Burkhauser and Mary C. Daly
Disability Insurance is Part of the Solution, not a Cause of Work Disability: Response to Burkhauser and Daly
Virginia P. Reno and Lisa D. Ekman
The Rising State: How State Power Is Transforming Our Nation’s Schools, edited by Bonnie C. Fusalrelli and Bruce S. Cooper; When Mayors Take Charge, edited by Joseph P. Viteritti; Collision Course: Federal Education Policy Meets State and Local Realities, by Paul Manna
Review by Jason A. Grissom
Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances, edited by Gret J. Duncan and Richard J. Murnane; School Choice Policies and Outcomes: Empirical and Philosophical Perspectives, edited by Walter Feinberg and Christopher Lubienski; Charter Schools: Hope of Hype? by Jack Budkley and Mark Schneider; Taking Measure of Charter Schools: Better Assessments, Better Policy making, Better Schools, edited by Julian R. Betts and Paul T. Hill
Review by Ashlyn Aiko Nelson